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What Is a Business Model and How to Create One

Business model

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A business model is pivotal to the success and sustainability of any business.

At its essence, a business model serves as the blueprint outlining the framework through which a company generates value, delivers its offerings, and ultimately sustains profitability.

It encapsulates the fundamental strategy employed by a company to achieve its objectives, encompassing

  • the identification of target customers
  • the delineation of value propositions
  • revenue streams
  • cost structures and
  • key resources and activities.


Essentially, it delineates the method by which an organisation orchestrates its operations to create and capture value in the marketplace.


Importance of Understanding and Developing a Robust Business Model


Understanding and crafting a robust business model is not merely an option; it is imperative for any aspiring entrepreneur or established business.

A well-defined business model serves as the compass guiding strategic decision-making, resource allocation, and operational execution.

It not only facilitates clarity in understanding how a company operates but also enables adaptability and resilience in the face of market dynamics and competitive pressures.

Moreover, a sound business model lays the foundation for sustainable growth, profitability, and scalability, fostering investor confidence and stakeholder trust.


Overview of What the Blog Will Cover


Throughout this blog, we will embark on a comprehensive exploration of business models.

Our journey will encompass an examination of various types of business models, ranging from traditional to disruptive paradigms, shedding light on their respective characteristics and applicability in different industries.

In addition to demystifying the anatomy of a business model, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to create one tailored to your organisation’s unique aspirations and market context.

Armed with practical insights and actionable strategies, you will be empowered to navigate the complexities of business model development with confidence and clarity, laying a robust foundation for your business.


Understanding Business Models


Definition and Purpose of a Business Model


A business model serves as the strategic framework that delineates how a company creates, delivers, and captures value in the market.

It encompasses the fundamental strategy and operational structure through which an organisation generates revenue and sustains profitability.

The primary purpose of a business model is to provide clarity and direction in guiding the activities and decisions of a company, ensuring alignment between its offerings, target customers, and economic drivers.

By defining the value proposition, revenue streams, cost structure, and key resources and activities, a business model acts as a roadmap for achieving sustainable competitive advantage and driving long-term success.


Types of Business Models


Subscription-Based Model


In a subscription-based model, customers pay a recurring fee at regular intervals, typically monthly or annually, in exchange for access to a product or service.

This model is prevalent in industries such as media streaming (e.g., Netflix), software as a service (SaaS) (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud), and subscription boxes (e.g. Hello Fresh), providing a predictable revenue stream and fostering customer loyalty through continuous engagement.


E-commerce Model


The e-commerce model involves the buying and selling of goods or services over the internet, eliminating the need for physical storefronts.

Companies like Amazon and eBay have revolutionised retail by leveraging e-commerce platforms to reach global markets, offering convenience, selection, and competitive pricing to customers while reducing overhead costs associated with traditional brick-and-mortar operations.


Freemium Model


The freemium model offers a basic version of a product or service for free, while charging for premium features or upgrades.

Companies employ this model to attract a wide user base and drive adoption, with the aim of converting free users into paying customers over time.

Examples include Dropbox, which offers free storage with paid upgrades for additional features, and Spotify, which provides free ad-supported music streaming alongside premium subscription options.


Marketplace Model


A marketplace model brings together buyers and sellers on a platform, facilitating transactions between them while charging fees or commissions for the services provided.

Marketplaces like Etsy (for handmade goods), Uber (for transportation), and Airbnb (for accommodations) connect users with offerings from independent sellers or providers, enabling efficient exchange and creating network effects that enhance value for both sides of the transaction.


Franchise Model


The franchise model involves the replication of a successful business concept through licensing arrangements with independent entrepreneurs or franchisees.

Franchisors grant franchisees the right to use their brand, business model, and support systems in exchange for upfront fees and ongoing royalties.

Well-known examples include McDonald’s, Subway, and Starbucks, which have expanded their reach and market presence through franchising.


Pay-Per-Use Model


In a pay-per-use model, customers are charged based on their usage or consumption of a product or service, rather than through fixed fees or subscriptions.

This model is prevalent in industries such as utilities (e.g., electricity, water), transportation (e.g., ride-sharing), and cloud computing (e.g., Amazon Web Services), offering flexibility and cost-effectiveness for users while aligning revenue with actual usage levels.


Razor and Blade Model


The razor and blade model involves selling a primary product (the “razor”) at a low or subsidised cost, with the expectation of generating recurring revenue from complementary consumable products (the “blades”).

Companies like Gillette (razors and razor blades) and Keurig (coffee makers and coffee pods) employ this strategy to capture long-term customer value through repeat purchases of associated consumables.


Platform Model


A platform model provides a digital or physical infrastructure that enables third-party developers, businesses, or individuals to create and exchange value within a broader ecosystem.

Platforms like Apple’s App Store, Google’s Android platform, and Shopify’s e-commerce platform facilitate the distribution and monetisation of apps, content, and products developed by third-party participants, leveraging network effects to drive growth and innovation.


Direct Sales Model


The direct sales model involves selling products or services directly to consumers without intermediaries such as retailers or wholesalers.

Direct sales companies typically rely on a network of independent sales representatives or distributors who market and sell products through personal relationships, home parties, or online channels.

Examples include Avon, Tupperware, and Amway, which have built extensive sales networks leveraging direct selling methods.


Asset-Light Model


An asset-light model minimises the ownership and investment in physical assets such as manufacturing facilities, warehouses, or inventory, instead focusing on leveraging external resources, partnerships, or outsourcing arrangements to deliver value to customers.

Companies like Airbnb (which doesn’t own properties) and Uber (which doesn’t own vehicles) operate asset-light business models, enabling scalability and flexibility without the burden of capital-intensive assets.


Non-Profit Model

The non-profit model is utilised by organisations whose primary goal is not to generate profit but to serve a social, educational, charitable, or humanitarian purpose.

Non-profit organisations rely on donations, grants, and government funding to support their operations and pursue their mission, rather than distributing profits to shareholders or owners.


Education Service Model


The education service model involves providing educational programs and services to students at various levels, all the way through to higher education and professional development.

Educational institutions, such as schools, colleges, and universities, deliver courses, curriculum, and academic support to students in exchange for tuition fees, grants, and government funding.


Research and Development Model


The research and development (R&D) model focus on innovation and advancement in technology, science, and knowledge.

Companies, universities, and research institutions conduct R&D activities to develop new products, technologies, and solutions.

Funding for R&D projects often comes from government grants, corporate partnerships, and private investments.


Ancillary Revenue Model


The ancillary revenue model involves generating supplementary income from peripheral products or services that complement the core offerings of a business.

For example, an airline may earn ancillary revenue through fees for baggage, in-flight meals, and seat selection, in addition to ticket sales.


Endowment Model


The endowment model is commonly used by non-profit organisations, particularly educational institutions and charitable foundations.

It involves accumulating and managing funds in an endowment to generate income over the long term.

Endowment funds are typically invested in diversified portfolios, and the income generated supports the organisation’s activities and initiatives.


Advertising Model


The advertising model revolves around generating revenue by selling advertising space or time to advertisers.

Media companies, websites, social media platforms, and mobile apps monetise their audience by displaying ads targeted to specific demographics or interests.

Revenue is generated based on metrics such as impressions, clicks, or conversions.


Affiliate Model


The affiliate model involves earning commissions by promoting and selling other companies’ products or services through affiliate links or referrals.

Affiliate marketers, bloggers, influencers, and website owners partner with companies and earn a commission for each sale or lead generated through their referral links.


Agency Model


The agency model entails acting as an intermediary between clients and suppliers, providing services such as marketing, advertising, consulting, or talent representation.

Agencies charge fees or commissions for their services, facilitating transactions and negotiations on behalf of their clients.


Auction Model


The auction model involves facilitating the buying and selling of goods or services through competitive bidding.

Auction platforms, both online and offline, enable sellers to list items for sale, and buyers to place bids, with the highest bidder winning the auction.

Auctioneers may charge fees or commissions based on the final sale price.


Brokerage Model


The brokerage model involves facilitating transactions between buyers and sellers in exchange for a fee or commission.

Brokers act as intermediaries in various industries, including real estate, finance, insurance, and commodities trading, connecting parties and facilitating negotiations to facilitate deals.


Crowdfunding Model


The crowdfunding model leverages the collective contributions of a large number of individuals or investors to fund projects, ventures, or charitable causes.

Crowdfunding platforms enable creators and entrepreneurs to raise capital by soliciting donations, pre-orders, or investments from a diverse audience.


Consulting Model


The consulting model involves providing expertise, advice, and solutions to clients to address specific challenges or achieve business objectives.

Consulting firms offer specialised services in areas such as management, strategy, finance, IT, marketing, and human resources, charging fees for their expertise and deliverables.


Distribution Model


The distribution model focuses on the efficient and effective distribution of products or services to reach customers in target markets.

Distribution channels, such as wholesalers, retailers, distributors, and e-commerce platforms, facilitate the movement of goods from manufacturers or producers to end consumers, generating revenue through markups or margins.


Licensing Model


The licensing model involves granting permission or rights to third parties to use intellectual property, such as trademarks, patents, copyrights, or software, in exchange for royalties, licensing fees, or upfront payments.

Licensors retain ownership of their intellectual property while generating revenue from licensing agreements with licensees.


Manufacturing Model


The manufacturing model revolves around producing tangible goods through the transformation of raw materials or components into finished products.

Manufacturers operate facilities such as factories or production plants, employing processes such as assembly, fabrication, and machining to manufacture goods for sale to customers or distribution to retailers.


Network Effects Model


The network effects model relies on the value created by the interaction and connectivity of users within a network or platform.

Network-based businesses, such as social media platforms, marketplaces, and communication networks, benefit from network effects as the value of the network increases with the number of users or participants.


Outsourcing Model


The outsourcing model involves contracting out specific business functions, processes, or services to external vendors or service providers.

Companies outsource non-core activities such as customer support, IT services, manufacturing, or back-office operations to specialised firms or offshore providers to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and focus on core competencies.


Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Model


The peer-to-peer (P2P) model facilitates direct transactions or interactions between individuals or peers, bypassing traditional intermediaries or centralised authorities.

P2P platforms enable users to exchange goods, services, or resources directly with one another, often leveraging technology to facilitate transactions, share resources, or collaborate on projects.


SaaS (Software as a Service) Model


The Software as a Service (SaaS) model involves delivering software applications and services to users over the internet on a subscription basis.

SaaS providers host and maintain software applications on cloud-based servers, enabling users to access and use the software via web browsers or mobile apps, typically paying a recurring subscription fee based on usage or features.


Sharing Economy Model


The sharing economy model enables individuals to share or rent underutilised assets, resources, or services with others for a fee or exchange.

Sharing economy platforms, such as Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRabbit, connect users with available resources, such as accommodations, transportation, or skills, facilitating peer-to-peer transactions and collaborative consumption.


Social Enterprise Model


The social enterprise model integrates social or environmental objectives with business activities to create positive impact and sustainable value.

Social enterprises pursue a dual mission of generating financial returns for investors while addressing social, environmental, or community needs.

They may operate as for-profit or non-profit entities, leveraging business strategies to achieve social change.


Subscription Box Model


The subscription box model involves curating and delivering a selection of products or services to subscribers on a recurring basis, typically monthly or quarterly.

Subscription box companies offer themed boxes tailored to specific interests, hobbies, or demographics, providing subscribers with a convenient and personalised shopping experience.


Time-Based Model


The time-based model charges customers based on the duration or usage of a product or service.

Businesses may offer subscription plans, rentals, or access to services on a per-hour, per-day, or per-usage basis, allowing customers to pay only for the time they utilise the product or service.


Utility Model


The utility model provides essential goods or services to consumers, such as electricity, water, gas, telecommunications, or transportation, under regulated conditions. Utility companies

These diverse business models illustrate the myriad ways in which companies create and capture value in the marketplace, each tailored to the unique characteristics of their industries, target markets, and strategic objectives.

By understanding the nuances of different business models, entrepreneurs can identify opportunities for innovation, differentiation, and sustainable growth in their own ventures.


White-Labelling Model


The white-labelling model involves rebranding or reselling a product or service produced by one company under the brand name of another company.

In this model, the original product or service is often generic or non-branded, allowing the purchasing company (the reseller) to customise and market it as their own.

White-labelling is common in industries such as software, consumer goods, and retail, where companies leverage existing products or services to expand their offerings without the need for in-house development or production.

This model offers flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and faster time-to-market for resellers, while enabling manufacturers or service providers to reach new markets and distribution channels through partnerships with white-label partners.


Components of a Business Model


Before delving into the intricacies of a business model, it’s crucial to understand its foundational elements.

A business model comprises several interrelated components, each playing a vital role in defining how a company creates, delivers, and captures value in the marketplace.

These components collectively form the blueprint that guides strategic decision-making and operational execution, shaping the success and sustainability of the business venture.

Now, let’s explore the key components of a business model in detail.


Value Proposition


The value proposition articulates the unique benefits or solutions that a company’s products or services offer to address the needs or desires of its target customers.

It defines the value that customers perceive in the offerings and distinguishes them from competitors’ offerings.

A compelling value proposition communicates why customers should choose a company’s products or services over alternatives, highlighting the key features, benefits, and value drivers that resonate with the target market.


Customer Segments


Identifying target customer segments involves segmenting the market based on demographics, psychographics, behaviours, or other criteria to pinpoint specific groups of customers with distinct needs, preferences, or characteristics.

Understanding the diverse segments within the market enables a company to tailor its marketing efforts, product development, and customer experiences to effectively reach and engage with its ideal customers.


Revenue Streams


Revenue streams represent the various sources of income generated by a company through the sale of its products or services to customers.

These may take different forms, such as one-time sales, recurring subscriptions, licensing fees, advertising revenue, transaction fees, or ancillary services.

Developing diverse and sustainable revenue streams is essential for driving profitability and long-term financial sustainability.


Cost Structure


The cost structure outlines the expenses incurred by a company in operating its business and delivering its value proposition.

Cost components may include fixed costs (e.g., rent, salaries), variable costs (e.g., materials, distribution), and semi-variable costs (e.g., marketing, utilities).

Understanding the cost structure enables a company to manage expenses efficiently, optimise resource allocation, and maintain profitability.


Key Resources


Key resources encompass the tangible and intangible assets, capabilities, and relationships that a company leverages to create, deliver, and capture value.

These resources may include

  • assets (e.g., facilities, equipment)
  • intellectual property (e.g., patents, trademarks)
  • human capital (e.g., skilled workforce)
  • financial resources (e.g., capital, funding)
  • strategic partnerships (e.g., suppliers, distributors).


Identifying and leveraging key resources enables a company to build competitive advantage and support its business operations.


Key Activities


Key activities represent the critical tasks, processes, and operations that a company performs to deliver its value proposition and execute its business model.

These include product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, customer service, distribution, and research and development.

Aligning key activities with strategic objectives and customer needs is essential for achieving operational efficiency and delivering value to customers.


Key Partnerships


Key partnerships involve collaborating with external entities, such as suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, technology providers, or strategic alliances, to enhance capabilities, expand reach, or mitigate risks.

Strategic partnerships enable a company to access resources, expertise, or markets that may be difficult or costly to develop internally, fostering innovation, scalability, and competitiveness.




Channels refer to the various avenues and touchpoints through which a company interacts with and delivers value to its customers.

These may include

  • physical channels (e.g., retail stores, direct sales force)
  • digital channels (e.g., websites, mobile apps, social media)
  • intermediaries (e.g., wholesalers, distributors)
  • hybrid channels (e.g., omnichannel retailing).


Effective channel management ensures seamless customer experiences, efficient distribution, and optimal market reach for the company’s offerings.


Guide on How to Create a Business Model


Identify Your Value Proposition


Start by identifying the unique benefits or solutions that your products or services offer to address the needs or desires of your target customers.

Conduct market research to understand customer pain points, preferences, and unmet needs that your value proposition can fulfil.

Clearly articulate your value proposition in a concise and compelling manner, highlighting the key features and benefits that differentiate your offerings from competitors.


Understand Your Target Customer Segments


Segment the market based on demographics, psychographics, behaviours, or other criteria to identify specific groups of customers with distinct needs and preferences.

Develop detailed customer personas representing your target segments, including demographics, preferences, pain points, and buying behaviours.

Tailor your marketing efforts, product development, and customer experiences to effectively reach and engage with each target segment.


Determine Your Revenue Streams


Identify the various sources of income that your business can generate through the sale of products or services to customers.

Explore different monetisation strategies, such as one-time sales, recurring subscriptions, licensing fees, advertising revenue, or ancillary services.

Develop pricing strategies and revenue models that align with customer value perceptions, market dynamics, and competitive positioning.


Assess Your Cost Structure


Analyse the expenses incurred by your business in operating and delivering your value proposition.

Identify fixed costs (e.g., rent, salaries), variable costs (e.g., materials, distribution), and semi-variable costs (e.g., marketing, utilities).

Evaluate cost-saving opportunities, optimise resource allocation, and manage expenses efficiently to maintain profitability and financial sustainability.


Identify Key Resources, Activities, and Partnerships


Identify the tangible and intangible assets, capabilities, and relationships that are critical to delivering your value proposition and executing your business model.

Determine key resources, such as physical assets, intellectual property, human capital, financial resources, and strategic partnerships.

Cultivate strategic alliances and collaborations with external entities, such as suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, or technology providers, to enhance capabilities and expand reach.


Define Your Channels for Delivering Value


Determine the various channels and touchpoints through which you will interact with and deliver value to your customers. Explore

  • physical channels (e.g., retail stores, direct sales force)
  • digital channels (e.g., websites, mobile apps, social media)
  • intermediaries (e.g., wholesalers, distributors)
  • hybrid channels (e.g., omnichannel retailing).

Design seamless customer experiences, optimise distribution channels, and integrate marketing, sales, and service channels to maximise value delivery and customer satisfaction.


Test and Validate Your Business Model


Develop prototypes, minimum viable products (MVPs), or pilot programs to test and validate your business model assumptions.

Gather feedback from customers, partners, and stakeholders through market research, surveys, focus groups, or beta testing.

Iterate and refine your business model based on

  • insights and learnings from testing
  • adjusting value proposition
  • target segments
  • revenue streams
  • cost structure
  • resources
  • activities
  • partnerships
  • channels as needed.


Iterate and Adapt as Needed


Continuously monitor market dynamics, customer feedback, competitive landscape, and internal performance metrics to identify opportunities and challenges.

Embrace a culture of experimentation, innovation, and continuous improvement, allowing your business model to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.

Be open to iterating and refining your business model over time, seizing opportunities for growth, differentiation, and sustainability in the dynamic marketplace.

By following these steps and continuously refining your business model, you can create a robust and sustainable framework that drives value creation, customer satisfaction, and business success.


Real-world Examples of Successful Businesses and their Business Models


Netflix (Subscription-Based Model)


Netflix revolutionised the entertainment industry with its subscription-based streaming service, offering unlimited access to a vast library of movies and TV shows for a monthly fee.

By providing convenience, choice, and personalised recommendations, Netflix attracted millions of subscribers worldwide, becoming a dominant player in the streaming market.


Amazon (E-commerce Model)


Amazon transformed retail with its e-commerce platform, offering a wide selection of products, competitive pricing, and fast delivery to customers.

Through continuous innovation, investment in infrastructure, and customer-centric approach, Amazon built a loyal customer base and diversified revenue streams beyond online retail into areas such as cloud computing (Amazon Web Services) and subscription services (Amazon Prime).


Spotify (Freemium Model)


Spotify disrupted the music industry by offering a freemium streaming service, providing ad-supported access to a vast catalogue of songs alongside premium subscription options.

By leveraging algorithms and personalised playlists, Spotify engaged users, driving subscription conversions and ad revenue while balancing the needs of listeners and artists.


Airbnb (Marketplace Model)


Airbnb created a global marketplace connecting travellers with unique accommodations offered by hosts worldwide.

Through its platform, Airbnb facilitated peer-to-peer transactions, enabling hosts to monetize spare space and travellers to find affordable and authentic lodging experiences.

By focusing on community, trust, and user experience, Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry and achieved rapid growth.


How These Companies Have Effectively Implemented Their Business Models


Customer-Centric Approach: Successful companies like Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Airbnb prioritise understanding and addressing the needs and preferences of their customers.

They continuously gather data, solicit feedback, and iterate on their offerings to deliver value and enhance customer experiences.


Innovation and Adaptation: These companies demonstrate a commitment to innovation, constantly evolving their business models, technologies, and strategies to stay ahead of market trends and customer expectations.

They invest in research and development, experiment with new features and services, and embrace emerging technologies to drive growth and differentiation.


Scalability and Expansion: Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Airbnb have built scalable business models that enable rapid expansion into new markets, geographies, and product offerings.

They leverage technology, automation, and network effects to efficiently serve growing customer bases and capture market share while maintaining operational flexibility and agility.


Ecosystem and Partnerships: These companies foster ecosystems of users, suppliers, developers, and partners, creating value through network effects, strategic alliances, and ecosystem integration.

They collaborate with content creators, sellers, service providers, and third-party developers to enhance their offerings, extend their reach, and unlock new revenue opportunities.


Data-Driven Decision-Making: Data plays a central role in the operations and strategies of successful companies, guiding decision-making, optimising performance, and driving innovation.

Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Airbnb leverage data analytics, machine learning, and predictive algorithms to personalise recommendations, improve user experiences, and optimise resource allocation.


In summary, the success of companies like Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Airbnb stems from their ability to effectively implement their business models by prioritising customer-centricity, innovation, scalability, ecosystem building, and data-driven decision-making.

By continuously refining their strategies, adapting to market dynamics, and delivering value to stakeholders, these companies have achieved sustained growth and competitive advantage in their respective industries.




Throughout this blog, we’ve explored the intricacies of what constitutes a business model and how to create one.

We discussed the essential components of a business model, including the value proposition, target customer segments, revenue streams, cost structure, key resources, activities, partnerships, and channels.

We also examined real-world examples of successful businesses and analysed how they effectively implemented their business models to drive growth and innovation.


Time To Explore and Develop Your Own Business Model


As you seek to innovate within your existing business or embark on your entrepreneurial journey, I encourage you to explore and develop your own business model.

Use the insights and frameworks discussed in this blog as a guide, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and tailor your business model to your unique vision, goals, and market opportunities.

Embrace experimentation, creativity, and iteration as you refine your business model and strive for success.


Final Thoughts


A well-defined business model is the foundation upon which successful businesses are built.

It serves as a roadmap for navigating the complexities of the marketplace, aligning resources, and capturing value.

By understanding your value proposition, target customers, revenue streams, and cost structure, you can make informed decisions, seize opportunities, and mitigate risks effectively.

A robust business model not only drives short-term profitability but also ensures long-term sustainability and resilience in the face of challenges and disruptions.

Therefore, invest time and effort in crafting and refining your business model, as it will ultimately determine the success and longevity of your business endeavours.


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Suzanne Powell

Suzanne Powell

Business Consultant

Welcome to Simple Business Transformation. the one stop shop for anyone wanting to grow their business.

Suzanne Powell

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